Jazz since nineteen-fifty-nine


Penned in and rounded off

By the careless chattering

Of lesser city royalty

And aspiring champagne socialists


The five steps of composition


The evening staggers on

On in broken movements

As convoluted as it needs to be

Teasing arrangements

Simple as sweat on walls

Sixty solid years of cigar smoke

Precipitate in a glass

On a lung, under tongue

Inside an ear canal


If I died now

It would be as a big, bald man of sixty

Face down in a bowl of lukewarm linguine

French ‘seventy-five in my stiffened claw

Disinterested mistress by my side

My face a mask of contentment

Her menu masking embarrassment


Old Marat

Scatters rice for ungrateful birds
Feeds the three black strays of the disused lot
At home, he was a shoemaker
Lost a finger to the machine of his trade
Paid for his mistress to join him
She took flight as soon as she’d landed




My friends and I are sat around a table. One friend comments on my new watch. I look down to see that it is upside down and on the wrong arm.



I am hanging from an elaborate wooden structure in a featureless tundra. My arms are bound behind my back. I am being used as a live counterweight for a noose. I am unsure of my relationship with the person who is to be hanged, but I sense we were once allies. Possibly even friends. I do not know the circumstances which led to my bondage but given that I am being spared the penalty of death, it may be the case that I was the one who betrayed them.

A small crowd has gathered. Men in dark blue uniforms bring a young man towards the giant weather vane from which I am suspended. The young man has dark hair and eyes, tanned skin. He is dressed in sandy-brown fatigues. From the severity of his punishment, I infer that he has rebelled against the dominant regime.

The man is raised to the noose, causing every finger of the abstract scaffold to sway and buck, triggering a counter-force from an opposing limb. Only my legs can move freely, and though I splay them in different directions in an attempt to steady myself in the air, I cannot stop my body from oscillating and rotating at random.

Before long, the man is being hanged. He speaks to the crowds in a way not befitting a man approaching death — he talks with ease. He jeers at them. He almost breaks into a laugh.

Meanwhile I, in a futile attempt at protest, stretch one leg out and try to stomp on the head of one of my captors, but he is positioned in such a way that I can only pester him with light taps and nudges. He looks up at me with murderous ire and I am reminded that they would readily kill me too for the slightest transgression.

The audience, silent and stoic, frown at the hanging man. A woman with long dark hair and sharp, aquiline features stands out in the crowd. She has a sympathetic air — could she be an ally or even a lover to the hanging man? Her expression morphs into a sneer. She begins yelling at the doomed man, taunting him, relishing his death. I am suddenly aware of a popular stigma against us, we captives. The crowd came here to shame us.






A threatened baby rabbit will push his face into a corner

Between two walls, ears folded back

Brown 9mm round fired into linoleum

Though exposed, stubbornly hard

Against all pronged voices

Fat, pinching insults


The corners

The underarm nook

The upturned mouth

The eye and its pink slime


I have always sought the corners

Of mouths, Of rooms,

Of hot, hollow thoughts, Mercuries

Poison planet,

Boundless, round

Foreign bodies

Distant messengers


Not for comfort

Not in the bookdog’s ears

(Folded and forgotten)

Nor in the sleeve peeking

Out of a coat cuff

Asking to be tugged

To be trimmed with teeth


I have never seen the centre

Middle of you, Man

In a silver hollow-point hole

I bury my face and wait

For anything to happen